Is First class redundant?

Peter Preston, a normally utterly impenetrable Guardian columnist, for once makes a good point in today’s paper  Writing about the £8bn worth of rolling stock investment promised by the government last week – forget whether the actual figures add up – he asked the DfT how many of the new 2,100 carriages would be first or second class. The hapless spokesman, of course, did not have a clue but its a jolly good question and makes an excellent point.

For instance, would it not be sensible for all the Crossrail trains to be standard class. This is a thorny issue since, for a while, they will run Tube like through London’s tunnels, but at either extremity they are replacing normal national rail services. Similarly, Thameslink’s capacity would be greatly enhanced if all the trains were standard class, as they are, for example, on Chiltern.

The present situation on commuter trains is, in any case, pretty daft. I sat in First Class the other day coming back on a late train from Alton because I was eating a Chinese take away and there are no other seats with tables on these SWT trains. The guard was indulgent, but only because I was chatting to a guy who had paid the whole whack – he worked for Google, so could afford it. But it was noticeable that the seats were exactly the same 2×2 formation except they were blue rather than red. So, frankly, why bother?

Now that civil servants and politicians can no longer use first class, and businesses are cutting back, it is high time that the whole issue was re-examined. While having two classes may be a way for the operators to screw extra money out of their punters, if overcrowding is such a big issue as is claimed, then surely cutting first class is a no brainer.

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